“The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
(Albert Einstein – refugee from Nazi Germany)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two events to commemorate the murder of Endre Ságvári

Two events will take place on
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 in Budapest
to commemorate the murder of Endre Ságvári, an antifascist resistance leader 66 years ago.

A public press conference will be held
at 11 am
in front of the building of the Supreme Court
(1055 Budapest, Markó u. 16).

The commemoration will continue

at 6 pm
in front of the entrance of the Remíz restaurant
(1021 Budapest, Budakeszi út 5)
where Ságvári was killed in a gun battle on 27 July 1944.

The events are organised by the Hungarian Anti-Fascist League, the Budapest Organisation of the Imre Nagy Society and the Green Left Party.

To explain the venue of the first event, we refer to the historian Tamás Kraus's contribution on 22 March 2006 in The Guardian. (1)
"Sixty-two years ago this week, Hitler's Wehrmacht began its blood-soaked occupation of Hungary. The country soon turned into a battlefield in defence of the Third Reich. The authoritarian regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, appointed a Nazi-friendly prime minister, but real power was in the hands of Edmund Veesenmayer, Hitler's resident in Budapest. The deportation of half a million Hungarian Jews to death camps was set in train.

But these facts seemed to escape the notice of the supreme court of Hungary this month when it rehabilitated László Kristóf, who in July 1944 was involved in the killing of an antifascist resistance leader, Endre Ságvári.

Ságvári, a member of the then illegal Communist party and also one of the leaders of the Social Democratic party, died a hero when he was shot in a fight with gendarmes at a café in Buda. He had been organising antifascist demonstrations since the 1930s, and became a legendary leader of the anti-war underground.

Apart from being a communist and a Jew in Hungary under Nazi occupation, Ságvári's bad luck was that after 1945 he was one of the very few real heroes to remember. He was made an icon of communist history. As a result, after 1990 his bust was removed to Budapest's now-famous Statue Park. However, for Hungary's hard right - and apparently for the court - this was not enough. They decided to turn the celebrated hero of the Kádár regime into a political scapegoat, insisting that Ságvári's use of a gun against those who wanted to arrest him was unlawful - as if the rule of law existed in Hungary in 1944.

On March 6 the supreme court overturned the conviction of one of the gendarmes involved in Ságvári's killing. The verdict states that the 1959 show trial in which the gendarme was sentenced to death had been used to legitimise the crackdown in the wake of the 1956 uprising. It's true that the gendarmes' superiors were the main war criminals (for example, Döme Sztójay, the prime minister, and Péter Hain, the leader of the political police) and they were hanged after the war. True, the gendarmes did not want to kill Ságvári, or at least not in the café. But they could have had no doubts that he would have ended up in the hands of the Gestapo and been tortured and probably murdered.

The court's decision has far greater implications than simply overturning the judgement of the 1959 trial. The verdict is based on the assumption that the rule of law was in force when the pro-Nazi regime sent gendarmes to liquidate a leader of the antifascist resistance. The court said the gendarmes "legally used their weapons against Ságvári, who resisted the arrest". By making such a claim, the court has defined Hitler's puppet regime as a constitutional state."
The 6 March 2006 judgement of the Supreme Court(2) has significantly triggered and encouraged Neo-Nazi movements in Hungary(3) resulting in violent actions in 2006-2009 and also leading to the fact that the far-right party Jobbik is now forming the third biggest fraction in the Hungarian Parliament.

The memorial plaque erected in honour of Endre Ságvári at the Remíz restaurant(2) has been vandalised even twice(4) so that, presently, only the empty place of the former memorial tablet can be visited.

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